Grooming

Grooming is when a person engages in predatory conduct to prepare a child or young person for sexual activity at a later time.

What is ‘grooming’?

Grooming is when a person engages in predatory conduct to prepare a child or young person for sexual activity at a later time.

Grooming can include communicating and/or attempting to befriend or establish a relationship or other emotional connection with the child or their parent/carer.

Young people are often ‘groomed’ before they are sexually abused. At first they may be tricked into thinking they are in a safe and normal relationship so they may not know it’s happening or may feel they have no choice but to be abused.

It may be hard to identify when someone is being groomed until after they have been sexually abused, because grooming behaviour can sometimes look like ‘normal’ caring behaviour, however this is not always the case.​

Does grooming have to be sexual?

No, grooming does not necessarily involve any sexual activity or even discussion of sexual activity – for example, it may only involve establishing a relationship with the child, parent or carer for the purpose of facilitating sexual activity at a later time.

Some examples of grooming behaviour

  • giving gifts or special attention to a child or young person, or their parent or carer, making the child or young person feel special and/or indebted to an adult
  • making close physical contact sexual, such as inappropriate tickling and wrestling/play fighting
  • openly or pretending to accidentally expose the victim to nudity, sexual material and sexual acts (this in itself is classified as child sexual abuse but can also be a precursor to physical sexual assault)
  • controlling a child or young person through threats, force or use of authority making the child or young person fearful to report unwanted behaviour.

 

Groomers may rely on mobile phones, social media and the internet to interact with children in inappropriate ways and will often ask the child to keep their relationship a secret. The grooming process may continue for months before the offender arranges a physical meeting.

Is grooming a criminal offence offence?

Yes, grooming is a criminal offence in most States and Territories in Australia. 

Grooming is a criminal offence in Victoria as per section 49B of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) and concerns predatory conduct undertaken to prepare a child for sexual activity at a later time.

The offence applies where an adult communicates, by words or conduct, with a child under the age of 16 years or with a person who has care, supervision or authority for the child with the intention of facilitating the child’s involvement in sexual conduct, either with the groomer or another adult.

The offence can be committed by any person aged 18 years or over. It does not apply to communication between people who are both under 18 years of age.
What age are the children who are protected by the offence?

The offence applies to communication with children under 16 years, but not communication with 16 and 17 year old children. This distinction between children aged below 16 and those aged 16 or 17 reflects the general age of consent (16 years) recognised by the criminal law in relation to sexual offences.